Friday, March 30, 2012

John Howerton Honda

This is John's first television commercial for the new dealership. I'm so proud of my hubby!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CAL-101 Update: John & Marian

My two CLL patients had their regular eight week checkups yesterday. And they are both doing beautifully. Bloodwork was normal once again for each. And no signs of any lymph nodes, either.

It's been almost two years since John began taking CAL-101 (5/10). Marian started her clinical trial five months after John. And it is so nice to get good news every time we visit Dr. Flinn.

I am normally more prompt in sharing an update. But we drove from Nashville to our new home in West Virginia last night. And I was much too tired to get on the computer. Then today was busy. John shot his first John Howerton Honda television commercial and I was invited to be in it with him. So Marian and I spent a couple of hours at the dealership and then I showed her around Beckley and Glade Springs before heading home to start dinner. (She came home with us from Nashville to see our new place and buy a CRV from John.)

I have never been in one of John's commercials. And I was a little nervous. I'm sure I will pick myself apart when I see the finished product (because that's what I do!). But it was fun. And the most important thing I wanted to say was a big thank you to the community for making us feel so welcome here. The commercial should start running next week (hopefully Monday) on the ABC affiliate WOAY. But when I receive a link to the video clip, I will also share it on my blog.

My feet are doing great! They are sore (feel kind of bruised and tender) still. And I'm sure they will be for a while. However, I went to Sam's and Walmart after leaving the dealership. AND I drove my new vehicle -- a white Honda CRV -- for the first time today!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 21: Recovering from Morton's Neuroma Surgery

At this point in my recovery, I think a weekly update will be sufficient. Most of you are probably tired of seeing my post-op feet, but for the sake of other MN patients considering this surgery, I will probably share a few more to document my progress.





I'm happy to report that today I began to take normal (heel-toe) steps! I am no longer hobbling!*

If you have never hobbled, you have no idea how exciting this is!

I am alternating between Naturalizer sandals (with socks) and my Merrells with orthotic inserts. Both give my feet good support and plenty of room. I had no idea what great shoe purchases I made prior to this surgery. The Merrells I've previously mentioned and these sandals have been great first normal shoes post-op. These sandals have two velcro straps and I leave the toe strap completely unattached. But the middle strap holds my foot in place without pressing on any sensitive spots. I bought these because I thought they'd be comfortable at Disney World in January (they were). But they've been great after surgery also. As you can see, the sole is very padded. Based on the recommendations of other patients, I also ordered a pair of Crocs RX Relief online.

I called Dr. Yu's nurse today and asked when I can submerge my feet in the tub and when I can start to apply Mederma gel to the scar. She said it's fine to go ahead with both, as long as the wounds look good and closed. If they show any signs of opening: don't continue.

I've been using Neosporin and regular bandaids since Saturday. Only since I have been touching the affected areas have I noticed the slight loss of normal feeling in spots. But it's not totally numb. And I don't feel any numbness when walking, or even when I wiggle my toes.

The first week following surgery, when my feet were completely bandaged and wrapped, I wondered why the right one hurt a little bit more than the left. I now see that the incision in my right is slightly longer than the incision in my left. So it makes sense that every person's surgery and recovery will be slightly different. I had both feet done at the same time and had a little different pain in each foot.

At three weeks out, I am very happy with my progress and so glad I had the courage to do both feet at the same time. In another week, I expect to be exercising again.

*I realized I needed to add an asterisk to "I'm no longer hobbling!" I AM still hobbling in bare feet. But not because of pain. It's kind of hard to describe. But walking in bare feet is - and will be - awkward and weird far longer than walking in shoes with good support and padding.

Nice Surprise...

My blog has recently been added to Cancer Blogs, which is part of one of the largest networks of blog directories on the Web. Please visit my blog's personal page to vote for my blog and comment to other blog users.
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I copied and pasted the above text from the Blog Nation site in order to claim this as my blog (it was submitted by a reader) and link to their site. I wanted to add a few of my own words to this post, though.

My blog did not start out as a cancer blog. I began writing as a personal / public journal of my thoughts and struggles before my husband's diagnosis with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. And after he was diagnosed, I did not have his consent to blog about his CLL journey. Initially, he was very private about his CLL and did not want to discuss it with anyone. He was reluctant to talk about it even to his own family. He is the kind of person who is not only very private, but he does not like to bring attention to himself and he does not like to burden others. His main argument against telling his mother about his CLL was that it would only worry her. I countered his argument by pointing out how upset I would be if my son did not share such important information with me. I would be hurt. And more importantly, I would be deprived of the opportunity to pray for my own son. We can't control whether or not someone worries about us. And mothers do not simply worry about a cancer diagnosis. Mothers sometimes just worry. It's a part of our human condition.

Well, I convinced him to tell his family and to let me confide in members of my own. And over time he became more comfortable sharing with a select group of friends. But his main reason for not wanting to go "public" was his profession. He deals with the public. He's a car dealer. He's been in business for himself for many years and knows a lot of people in the community. He didn't want people to feel they had to address the "news" of his health issues. He did not want to have this conversation every day: "I'm so sorry to hear..."

John took this diagnosis in stride and wanted to continue to live his day to day life no differently than he had prior to the diagnosis. And he did not want to be treated any differently. CLL is a chronic blood cancer. It is not an immediate life and death struggle for most. CLL patients can live a very long time with indolent forms of the disease. And research in CLL is resulting in some very exciting new treatments, which offer even greater hope for longevity in patient survival. John's attitude toward his CLL has always been very positive. "It is what it is." His diagnosis did shake me up emotionally at the beginning. But it never seemed to rattle him. In fact, I'll never forget one particular day when I was struggling emotionally. All I could think of in the first few months, every time I looked at him, was, "I can't lose him." And that thought would make me cry. On this particular day, I hugged him and that thought was so present that my whole body ached. I let go and he looked at me; saw the tears spilling out of my eyes. (He is kind of used to that because I often tear up just telling him how much I love him. But he knew I was crying on this occasion because I was afraid.) His lips formed a frown, he stomped a foot, and indignantly declared: "I'm not dead yet." And we laughed...hard. One of my best pieces of advice to any patient or caregiver reading is: Don't ever stop laughing. Laughter is so good for the soul. It's good for your relationship. It's healing. And it really is the best medicine for stress. You absolutely cannot lose your sense of humor in this battle. But I believe a sense of humor (especially about yourself) will get you through life, whether you are living with a diagnosis or not.

But I digress. Back to the whole privacy issue. It turned out to be a good thing that I talked John into sharing his diagnosis with his mom for reasons I never even anticipated. She, also, was diagnosed with CLL just months after John's diagnosis. Because she knew all the research I had already done on CLL (information I shared with his family in detail), she was actually kind of prepared to receive this news. She didn't experience the shock or fear part the way she might have. And since we had already established a relationship with Dr. Ian Flinn at Sarah Cannon (a highly regarded specialist in CLL), I urged her to choose him as her CLL physician as well. And today she and John are both in clinical trial with CAL-101, enjoying good health and excellent results from this new study drug.

I am a person who shares openly for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it's my nature and comes naturally. But in addition to that, I just think it helps so much to know we are never alone in anything life hands us. In any given situation, many others have walked the same path or are walking the path simultaneously with us. And still others have much greater challenges. Feeling isolated in our struggles is one of the hardest things about anything we go through, and certainly any kind of illness. And this is true whether you are the patient or the caregiver. It always helps to know we are not alone. I am reassured by knowing there are others who feel and understand what I am feeling or facing. And if I can provide information and emotional support for others, I find it extremely rewarding to do so. I found it difficult to hold my emotions in and not write about our journey for the period of time I did not have John's consent to share.

In May of 2009, John gave me permission to write about his CLL on my blog. He was hospitalized for removal of a kidney stone and I asked, "Do you really care anymore who knows about your CLL? Could I please write about it on my blog?" And he said that was fine. So that was when I first addressed CLL on my blog (http://sharihowerton.blogspot.com/2009/05/reflections-from-hospital-room.html) and I have been writing about it ever since.

I'm so happy to report that we are successfully managing John's CLL and his mom's CLL with CAL-101. There hasn't been nearly as much to write about recently because they are both doing so well. But I do post an update every eight weeks following their regular checkups (tomorrow is their next appt.). And I have journaled about both their CLL journeys since 2009. I have had Marian's blessing since diagnosis. She likes being able to refer a friend to my blog for details on how she's doing. Blogs are wonderful tools and such convenient ways to share information, inspiration, joys and struggles.

In addition to CLL and other health challenges I've faced recently (frozen shoulder and foot surgery), I write when I feel inspired to share my thoughts (on many different topics), when I'm trying to process emotions, when I'm struggling, when I'm thankful, when I want to share an event or pictures of special people and occasions in our lives. My blog can be so random. I don't think of it necessarily as a cancer blog. I'm just a person who is living life to the fullest in spite of cancer being one facet of that life. At this moment, I am the caregiver/spouse/daughter-in-law rather than the patient. But that doesn't mean I will always be solely in that role. My dad also has CLL. His has been the very indolent form of CLL. In 15 years, his CLL has never been symptomatic. Although he does have other health issues that are a much bigger challenge (like Parkinson's). But I'm well aware that CLL can be familial (John and his mom) and I know it's possible I could develop it at some point in the future...or I could be diagnosed with some other form of cancer (my mom died of colon cancer at a young age). I am enjoying extremely good health today, but I know I am also mortal and will eventually succomb to something, as all of us will. What is it they say? Life causes death?

I'm thankful for medical research and technology and excellent physicians like Dr. Flinn. I'm thankful my husband and mother-in-law are enjoying good health. I initially struggled with self-imposed loss and grief in anticipation of losing John and the fear of not having a long life with him. I allowed myself to read about median lengths of survival with CLL and projected myself into all kinds of worst case scenarios that I didn't think I could face. I put myself through a lot of emotional turmoil unnecessarily. And one day when I was praying (for good markers), I knew God spoke to my heart. Though not audibly, I know it was His voice and not my own because of how low I was that day. I had read about the markers; which were good and which were bad as far as prognosis goes. And I will never forget God telling me not to put my faith or trust in John's markers, but to put my faith and trust in Him and in His promise that He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28), even this. He also gently and lovingly impressed on me that although there might come a day of grieving one day, this was not that day. He said, I haven't taken John. You have him. And he's healthy. Don't go in your mind to a place I haven't even taken you. Don't give up the time you have anticipating a future that has not arrived.

I won't tell you I've never felt emotional or fearful since that day. My blog tells a different story. But that day was a turning point for me. I'm trusting God for our future. And I do believe He is working all things for our good, no matter what circumstances may look like on any given day. He knew at diagnosis that CAL-101 was in John's future just when we needed it. I didn't know that. I had to trust Him for the unknown. When John failed chemo, God knew that would qualify John for the first CAL-101 clinical study. God knew CAL-101 would do for John what chemo couldn't. It was always under control from God's perspective. Just not from mine. And I have a whole life of experiences where God has taught me that lesson again and again. Not just with CLL. So I am learning how to better trust Him -- really trust Him -- all the time. And, of course, it's always easier to trust when you are happy with what God is doing in your life. But no matter what the future holds, I believe with all my heart that God loves us, God is for us, God is working all things for our good. I just realize that the ultimate fulfillment of that promise is eternal life, not necessarily the length of years we spend in this life.

If I ever have to lose John, it will be excruciatingly painful for me. It won't matter how old we are. Words cannot express how much I love, value and appreciate him. He has been a Godsend to me in more ways than I could ever describe to you. But I know someday that one of us will lose the other and have to continue living. When that time comes for one of us, it will be hard. But I'm living in today and not in my imaginary projected future. Today I am fully enjoying the life and the marriage God has blessed me with. And I'm not giving up one day of that joy. I know God will take care of us. And this life is not the end.

In sharing my life, my random thoughts and emotions, and our cancer battles on this blog, that is the hope I most want to strengthen and inspire in others. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, God is there. He loves you. He has you. You are safe and secure. And this life, as we know it, is just a part of our journey. The destination is one we can only reach by passing from this life. And I try to remind myself often that the goal is to get to that destination and see Jesus. The goal is not to stay here forever.

If you are visiting my blog for the first time through this new connection, I hope you'll find this to be a good resource for information and encouragement. We're in this together. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Taking it Easy & Doing Great! (Day 17 of MN Foot Surgery Recovery)

Two and a half weeks following surgery on both feet for Morton's Neuroma, I'm pretty impressed with how quickly my feet are bouncing back. Well, I'm not bouncing yet . . . . Ha! That will be a while, of course. But I'm doing really well.

I even polished my toes this morning!




Some of you will remember that I inflicted a painful injury to my left big toe last July 4 when I drug a heavy slider door over it in Panama City Beach. I wound up losing that toe nail and it has finally grown back enough to be able to put polish on it. It hasn't been the best year for my feet. But my pain following surgery, at its worst, fell way short of the pain I experienced last July 4!

I don't have any pain at this point; even when I walk. My feet are tender and sore and I'm not walking quite normally yet. But I've stopped having to walk on my heels and the sides of my feet. I can't put normal pressure on the balls of my feet. The heel-toe step is slightly inhibited still. And I walk gently. But I don't have to protect the balls of my feet from touching the ground when I walk anymore. And they can comfortably take a little of my weight on them.

Initially, the slightest touch to the balls of my feet triggered nerve sensations almost like a mild electrical stimulus. It felt very weird. And I sometimes have that even now if I don't have shoes on. But with my orthotics in those Merrells I previously mentioned (last post), my feet have so much support in the arch that I am getting much closer to a normal heel-toe walk. My steps are just slower and more deliberate. However, to my surprise, going up stairs is really easy and comfortable because I put my foot down flat. I am walking up the stairs normally already! (Although a little more slowly going down the stairs.) My bruising seems to be increasing as my feet are feeling better.


I don't want to do anything prematurely, but I'm already thinking that maybe I can ride my semi-recumbent bike in another week.

Major improvement between Monday and today. I noticed a big difference yesterday. And I wonder how much of it is the result of giving my feet more rest this week. I have not left our home since Sunday night. I've gotten up and down and done a few things (like laundry and changing the sheets). But I've stayed off my feet quite a bit. I had a few pains in my left foot as I was going to sleep last night, near my toes. I didn't do anything to cause it. It was just kind of spontaneous and, I assumed, a normal part of the recovery. It's gone this morning.

I'm enjoying the townhome. It's cozy. And I can clean it myself. I was trying to think of the last time I only had 2100 square feet to maintain. And it's been over twenty years! This feels so manageable. My new jacuzzi tub in WV is a lot smaller than the one I had in our previous home. But I don't miss the huge tub at all. The smaller one is so much easier to get in and out of. And, even more importantly, so easy to clean.

Once I figure out what clothes to hang in my closet (because they definitely won't all fit), I will be all settled in and ready to start exploring the area outside my nest. But I told John that, for the moment, I am just thoroughly enjoying my nest. Moving is hard work! I'm so glad this move is behind us. I'm leaving everything I don't need in boxes for now because there will be one more move when we buy or build here. And I want to eliminate some of the packing.

We really like this area. My prayer is that God will bless John's efforts in the new Honda dealership. My husband is the hardest working man I have ever known. He is a man of honesty and integrity. He is loyal, kind and fun to be around. I still feel as privileged to be his wife as the day I married him. And, yes, I am very proud of him. Ever since the sale of Cookeville Honda, John has hoped to be a Honda dealer again. And I'm thankful that God blessed him with this opportunity.

The people of West Virginia have been so warm and welcoming to us. I think John is a perfect fit here. And as long as I get to see my kids (which includes nieces and nephews) on a regular basis, I feel like I could live just about anywhere. But I feel fortunate that we are in an absolutely beautiful location.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

All About Morton's Neuroma: Surgery & Recovery

NOTE TO READERS:  I am writing this post for other sufferers of Morton's Neuroma who may be considering surgery. It turned into a book by the time I finished, and is full of details and pictures. Possibly TMI for anyone else. 
FYI: There are now over 200 comments on this blog post (as of May 2013). Most questions have already been asked and answered. Please remember to scan the comments under this blog post if you have specific questions. 


As I write this, I am two full weeks out from having surgery on both feet to remove Morton's neuromas. Let me just say first that I am doing great. But I will start at the beginning...

I am a 52-year-old woman (almost 53), 5' 4" tall. My weight fluctuates between 128 and 133 regularly. I'm in overall good health. I've exercised regularly and faithfully for the past 21 years. I have never smoked. I did not drink alcohol at all until the age of 43. And I drink alcohol moderately/socially today (a glass of wine, a margarita, a girlie martini). I have no other health conditions other than silent reflux. And I tell you all this because my doctor told me that complications are more likely to occur in heavy smokers and patients with other health issues; like diabetes. I would venture to say that being overweight could make this surgery more difficult, as well.

I have never been a runner. (I ran the 50 yard dash in 9.7 in sixth grade. I was not born to run, you might say.) And I'm not athletic. I burn calories and increase my heart rate simply for health and weight control; usually indoors while reading or watching TV. If I have abused my feet, it has been by wearing the wrong shoes. I spent much of my life wearing very high heels on a regular basis and shoes that were cute rather than sensible. I remember shopping with my mom while I was still in my twenties and making fun of her for the shoes she was trying on. She was in her forties. And she said, "One day you will stop wearing those heels and buy comfortable shoes, too. Just wait." She was absolutely correct. Nothing is as important to me as comfort today. But the damage was already done.

A few years ago (within the last five, but I can't remember precisely when), I started to notice weird pains in the ball of my foot when walking. I have always liked to walk around barefoot in the house. It just feels comfortable to me and my mom always made us take our shoes off in the house. So it felt foreign to keep my shoes on inside as an adult. But I remember when I started to feel these shooting pains and sensations going into the third and fourth toes. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like my toes were cracking as I walked. It was a weird sensation. There was tingling and numbness (which later evolved into sharper pain). Initially, I just thought I had aging feet. But when that toe stuff started, I got worried that something more was going on. So I got online and Googled my symptoms. That was the first time I had ever heard of Morton's neuroma.

I asked friends for foot doctor recommendations and several people urged me to see Dr. James Yu at Tennessee Orthopedic Alliance in Nashville. I was also urged to skip going to a podiatrist and only consider a medical doctor who specialized in the foot. That seemed like good advice to me (no offense intended to podiatrists). I saw Dr. Yu the first time a couple of years ago. At that point, my left foot was giving me more problems than my right. And I tried my first cortisone injection. It was not as awful as I expected it to be. Not pleasant, but I was impressed with how well I endured it (since I consider myself a little wimpy when it comes to pain). I got some relief for a while. But not nearly long enough. I still wasn't ready to consider surgery, though.

Over time, the pains and weird sensations increased in both feet. I knew I was going to have the surgery at some point, but I was still trying to avoid it and put it off. When I did it, I wanted it to be at the end of winter so I would have months of sandal wearing ahead of me while my foot was still sore. Part of my procrastinating also had to do with my high deductible and forking over the cash. LOL.

This past Fall my pain increased a little more. Cold weather seemed to worsen my pain. One night during an important event, I had to sit down because the pain was so severe in both feet. And I was wearing shoes that had previously been some of my most comfortable. But for several minutes, I could not have walked to save my life. It was terrible. And all I could do was sit and massage my feet (in public). I knew that nobody comprehended the level of pain and I felt like a prematurely old lady. Since I have always made fun of myself and called myself a baby, I assume nobody thinks my pain is as bad as it is. I'm beginning to think I'm not as wimpy as I believe I am. I'm just very expressive and I talk about whatever I'm feeling (bad AND good) more than the average person. I also don't try to appear tough by downplaying anything. I tell it like it is (from my perspective, of course).

My right foot was the worst when I went back to Dr. Yu in early January because I had a trip to Disney World planned with my kids and grandkids (5 and 6). I was a little concerned about how my feet would hold up, but knew the weather would be warm enough for me to wear my most comfortable shoes and sandals. I also thought cortisone injections in both feet would probably be a good idea. This time my injections were given by Dana Duff, Dr. Yu's PA. Wow. All I can say is, if you live in Nashville and need a cortisone injection, he is your guy. I did not feel pain. I was absolutely amazed at his skill.

I suffered with frozen shoulder for about six months this past year and while in physical therapy for that, I had mentioned my neuroma issues. My therapist suggested I go to Target and buy WalkFit orthotic inserts. I did and they helped take pressure off the ball of my foot. But I could not insert them into all of my shoes. I did, however, have one pair of recently purchased shoes that were absolutely perfect for the orthotics. (Does anyone know why this word is spelled both orthotics and orthodics? I've seen it both ways and both appear to be correct spellings.)

The shoes were Merrells I found at TJ Maxx. They have a rubber sole, but not much padding (room for the inserts). They are a loose fit with a fabric upper and a zipper up the center. And they were the first shoe I was able to wear after surgery...

Cortisone and comfortable footwear got me through the week at Disney World. I was so pleased when the five and six-year-olds complained of being tired long before I felt tired. Yay, Grandma Shari! LOL.

The same day that I got my cortisone injections, I made an appt. for a surgery consultation with Dr. Yu as soon as I was back from WDW. The catalyst for ending my procrastination was our upcoming move to West Virginia. The timing just seemed perfect. I could get all of my packing and unpacking done, then have surgery and rest for a while. I knew I had one of the best surgeons and I didn't want to go to a new place needing foot surgery. So in those first few weeks while John was needing to devote all his time and energy to his new Honda store, I decided to have the surgery in Nashville and stay with a friend for the initial recovery. That turned out to be a wiser decision than I could have imagined. My friend was a Godsend to me. I could write a whole post on what a great caregiver and friend she was. I told her she struck the perfect balance between being attentive and nurturing (she anticipated every need I might have and made me so comfortable in her home), and yet never hovering over me. I had plenty of solitude (which I enjoyed) and plenty of attention (which I enjoyed). But I also told her I would not brag too much about what a great caregiver she is because she obviously doesn't want to go into business as a caregiver.

I had surgery on March 6. We arrived at Baptist Ambulatory Surgical Center at 6:00 am. I didn't feel too nervous. But my blood pressure was a little higher than normal for me, so maybe I was. Being the Facebook junkie I am, I was taking pictures with my phone while awaiting the procedure. After asking me if I still wanted surgery on both feet, the nurse wrote "yes" on each.


I was not given general anesthesia. I was given IV propophol (yes, the same drug Michael Jackson received for sedated sleep). It was great. It worked fast. The last thing I remember is feeling some discomfort in my IV and thinking maybe it was not in position. I mentioned it to the anesthesiologist and he said it was the medicine going into my vein. I don't remember anything after that until they ceased the drug and I woke up post-op 30 minutes later. The surgery itself was a breeze. And I was not in pain when I woke up.

My friend Connie teases me that the anesthesiologist had to wait for me to finish giving the nurse my sangria recipe before he could explain that I would feel the propophol as it went in through the IV. That's why I had to ask what I was feeling. I didn't shut up soon enough for him to tell me in advance.

I was alert enough to immediately ask for my phone so I could take pictures following surgery. This is what my post-op feet looked like...

The first actual pain I felt was when I hobbled into my friend's house after surgery. We had to make two stops on the way home; to pick up my prescription for pain and also for a couple of pillows I wanted at Bed Bath and Beyond. I had forgotten to bring my pillows from home and my neck is still not completely back to normal after frozen shoulder. I wanted to make sure I didn't develop neck problems recovering from foot surgery. But by the time we got home, whatever pain relief I had left over from surgery was wearing off. And I hadn't taken my first pain pill. So I got to a chair just as quickly as I could after entering the door. But within 30 minutes, I began to feel relief from the hydrocodone. And I only took 5 mg. (along with 500 mg. acetaminophen). I believe this combination is a Lortab.

Dr. Yu said to stay off my feet (except to hobble to the bathroom) for the first two days. I assumed Day One was the day of surgery. Then, on the third day, he wanted me to start moving around more. He explained that I could not do any damage to my feet. But I could cause swelling if I tried to do too much too soon. And while there is no way to completely avoid swelling after surgery, it could affect how well the incision healed (cosmetically) if I caused a lot of swelling. He said the surgery went well and I should only need pain meds for the first couple of days. He said that the nerves would be sent to pathology to confirm they were damaged. Then he assured me that he had never removed a nerve that had not turned out to be damaged. Prior to surgery, that had been the only concern I'd had; that he wouldn't get the nerve that was causing the problem. I didn't want to be his one exception. So I was very relieved when the nurse told me a week later that the pathology results were positive for Morton's neuroma in both.

I took my pain pills every four hours the first two days and was amazed how little pain I experienced. I was uncomfortable, and walking was definitely a challenge (if you can call it walking). You feel like Frankenstein at first. Obviously, it was more challenging because I had surgery on both feet simultaneously. But never at any time in my recovery have I regretted doing both feet. I have been so glad I made that decision. I hobbled around on my heels and on the sides of my feet better than I imagined I would. And because my doctor said I wouldn't need pain pills by the third day, I attempted to stop taking them. I have a mental condition I call model patient syndrome. Just like I was obsessed with getting A's in college, I was determined to be a star patient and not fall short of the goal. I did so well all day that Thursday (Day One being Tuesday) that I decided not to even take a pain pill that night. My friend suggested that I take it even though I was not in pain and was feeling sleepy without it. I told her I really would take it if I needed it. But I fell asleep without it. I later realized it wasn't the best decision and was motivated by my model patient syndrome. Although I can't say I was in a lot of pain during the night, I did not sleep as soundly. I had a harder time getting comfortable (because you can't really use your feet to position your body). And there was more discomfort involved when I did have to hobble to the bathroom. It would have made more sense to take it.

When my friend came in to check on me Friday morning and saw the pill still laying on my bed table, she shook her head and said, "You're hard headed." John calls me Hard Head sometimes (playfully). And I don't think of myself this way. But all through frozen shoulder, I tried to be brave and not take pain pills except when I could not bear the pain. For some reason, I have a need to prove to myself that I'm not a baby. I imagine that the people around me think I'm exaggerating my pain. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the way I grew up.

So I decided to stay ahead of the pain a little bit longer, regardless of what the doctor's expectations were. I was able to take them six to seven hours apart, but I took them on schedule for the fourth and fifth days. It was a good decision and one I recommend to others. If for no other reason, the pain pills made me more comfortable as I got up and down, spent more time on my feet, and ensured a good night's rest. I continued taking them before bed as needed for another week.

I did not venture out of the house until the seventh day. And when I did go out, a friend picked me up and took me to lunch. I was feeling so good that I decided to walk into Victoria's Secret and pick up some lotion I like. That night I could tell I had walked more. My feet were quite sore. But I wouldn't call it pain. I could tell they were a little bit swollen by the way they felt. They didn't look so swollen, but the bandages felt just a little bit snugger. Not tight. Just a little snug. I never unwrapped my feet until my stitches came out. So I never saw my incisions during this time.

Bathing was another challenge, but not as hard as I anticipated. I like to soak in the tub. So what I did was step into a dry bathtub, sit down and hang my feet over the side. Then I ran the water. My friend had a great hand held shower head. I just had to remember to take it down before running the water. I soaked, cleaned up and washed my hair all by myself with no problem. When I was done, I let the water out, then put the bath mat inside the tub, stood up (weight on my heels), stepped out and dried off. It went smoothly every time. And it was refreshing. But it did use up a lot of energy.

Except when I was up and moving, I kept my feet propped up at all times. Sitting in restaurants, I propped my feet up on a chair or in the booth. Sitting at the kitchen table, I propped my feet up on another chair. I even slept with my feet elevated on a large pillow. I was comfortable that way. It wasn't a problem.

I went out a little bit every day the second week. I went to lunch Monday and Tuesday. I was able to keep my scheduled appointment for hair cut and color Tuesday afternoon. I went out to dinner with friends Wednesday night. My friend and I went for a massage Thursday afternoon. I went to get my stitches out Friday morning. But I cannot imagine doing any more than I did. Being taken to lunch and keeping appointments for pampering are much different from returning to work. I would not be ready to go back to a job yet. And I'm thankful that I don't have to.

I had the most foot discomfort (mild pain) on Saturday night and Wednesday night (which would have been Day Six and Day Nine). I think it was from a little swelling. We had to wait in the bar for our table at Carabba's Wednesday night and I tried to sit at the bar without having my feet up. I was immediately uncomfortable. Thankfully, one of my friends offered her lap. And I accepted the invitation. I then put my feet up in the booth once we were seated.

There were times I could feel my incisions and other times I just felt like the bottoms of my feet were severely bruised, sore and tender. Today, which is Day 15, my feet don't even feel sore unless I'm on them. I am still not putting pressure on the balls of my feet. But I am not having to avoid letting them touch the ground like I first was. They are not as sensitive. Some patients report numbness and an inability to wiggle their toes for a while. I am not aware of any numbness in my foot or between my toes at all. And I could wiggle my toes the very day of surgery. I stretch and wiggle them a lot to increase circulation.

I have had a variety of sensations and minor pains in the ball of my foot since surgery. Most of them are spontaneous and short in duration. But my first thought is always: Is this normal or have I done something wrong? But I found a blog by another MN surgical patient with many comments and was reassured that everything I felt was normal and common. Even though I'm doing so well, my feet have suffered an invasive trauma. Tissue and nerves have been "messed with" in the process of getting to the damaged nerve. There has been cutting and sewing and manipulating. So everything inside is disturbed and needing time to heal. But there were many successful outcomes shared. And I felt very encouraged that I'd made the right decision to have the surgery. I also read about patients taking stronger pain medication and having a hard time walking; needing crutches or canes (with only one foot affected). I know every surgery and every person is different in its recovery process. The surgeon makes a difference. The health of the patient makes a difference. The location and size of the neuroma makes a difference. Caregiving makes a difference. Following instructions makes a difference. And I have tried to follow my doctor's instructions to the letter.

I was a little surprised when the nurse removed my bandages to take out my stitches. Because my pain wasn't bad, I thought maybe the incisions weren't very big. It looked worse than it felt. But she said the incisions looked great and I was healing well. She said the biggest pitfall for people who come through it as well as I have so far is that they tend to overdo. She urged me to give my feet lots of rest for a full four weeks, no matter how good I felt. She said I could try wearing shoes any time, as long as they were comfortable. And that my feet would let me know what shoes to avoid. One stitch had some skin grown over it and removing it involved a little gentle digging with a tweezer. It hurt, but wasn't any big deal. And it was only a minute or two. It was kind of like a stubborn splinter. The other ones came out with no problem and only stung a little. I did take a pain pill one hour prior to my appointment, as advised, to take the edge off. But I could have done it with nothing.

When I told Julie (Dr. Yu's nurse) that I had needed the pain pills a little longer than two days, she laughed and said all the doctors tend to dismiss the recovery as nothing. She said men seem to have a harder time than women. And she always tells patients what to realistically expect. She also said every foot, every patient, every surgery and every surgeon is different. She told me I had one of the best and that patients come to him from several other surrounding states because of his reputation. That was really nice to hear.

I wore the protective boot/sandals exclusively until Sunday afternoon, Day 13. I liked wearing them because it alerted observers to injury or surgery. I felt like it would make people more aware and more cautious around me. It also served as an explanation for why I walked like Frankenstein when I looked otherwise fine. I stood a lot more than I probably should have Saturday evening because I attended a special event (my son's ordination) and was 100% in the moment (feeling no pain). I could have sat down more, but I felt fine. Only later on did I feel some repercussions of standing so much. My feet were very sore. But I think that is probably to be expected as activity is increased. I had some visible swelling when I took my socks off that night, but it wasn't alarming swelling. After a night of sleep, the swelling had gone down.

I am spending my third week trying to stay off my feet a lot; letting them rest and heal. I don't need to be anywhere or do anything. So there is no reason to push myself. I know. I'm very fortunate to be able to sit around for as long as it takes. And fortunately I am not the type of person who needs to be doing something every minute. If I have my laptop, books, programs recorded on TiVo, I'm good to go. And the most discomfort I have currently is in my back, shoulder and neck.

My sciatic nerve is bothering me. I assume it's from walking abnormally for the last two weeks, messing up the alignment of my body. And it could also be from sitting so much. And I think I have strained something in my shoulder this past week. I am freshly recovered from frozen shoulder (six months) and when you cannot use your feet to reposition yourself, you overuse other parts of your body. My left shoulder is a little sore. But it's nothing compared to the pain of frozen shoulder. Actually, I would rather go through this surgery and recovery ten times than have frozen shoulder again. That pain was excruciating day in and day out for months. And the three months of physical therapy were agony; especially in the beginning. At one point, I couldn't even talk about the pain without crying. My nerves were so shot from the chronic pain. In comparison to that, this surgery and recovery has been an absolute walk in the park.

I can get my feet wet now. But I still find it easier to sit in the tub rather than stand in the shower. I'm not supposed to soak my foot in the tub yet, so I still prop it up on the side. But I can wash the bottom and run water over my whole foot, which feels good. I cannot, however, put even gentle pressure on the ball of my foot. I have to touch it lightly or else I trigger what feels like electrical impulses running through the foot. It is still sensitive to pressure. A couple of times I have had some shooting pains. But they went away as quickly as they came. Mostly what I have is soreness and tenderness.

I have bruising. But the incisions are healing so well. Julie said to use sunscreen or cover them with bandaids when wearing sandals or going to the beach. As long as I don't expose them to too much sun, they should disappear into fine little white lines eventually. I'm going to be extra cautious, I think, and cover them with bandaids when I go to the beach in June. But even if I wound up with ugly scars, I wouldn't care. I just want relief from the neuroma pain. It will be a while before I even try on a pair of heels. Wearing high heels isn't important to me and I don't want to cause another neuroma to form by abusing my feet. I look at women in those really high heels now and want to warn them. But we all have to make our own mistakes. On the other hand, I will enjoy being able to wear a pretty pair of shoes with low to medium heels on occasion after I am fully healed. But I'm not even thinking that far ahead. I am more eager to be able to exercise than I am to wear heels.

I'm going to share some pictures at the bottom of this because you may or may not want to look at them. I thought I would make it easier for someone to skip the pictures by doing it this way. I want to stress that the incisions look more painful than they actually are. I'm sharing to show you what a successful procedure looks like and what is normal as far as bruising. Of course, I don't know at this point if I will get complete relief from pain simply because I am healing so well. I know some people do not have successful outcomes and are still in pain after having this surgery. But I do know that two nerves positive for MN were removed successfully from my feet and my recovery has been uneventful thus far. So I have every reason to expect the best results. I'll let you know if it turns out otherwise.

 Bandages on (Day 2).

Bandages coming off (Day 11).

 Seeing my incisions for the first time.

Removing the stitches.

 Butterflied.

Day 14 Feet.




I'm looking forward to a much needed pedicure and some pretty polish on those toes.




Sunday, March 18, 2012

Home At Last!



Day 13 since foot surgery and I'm home. It feels so good to be on this side of the last five weeks. And thank goodness I worked so hard to unpack boxes the weekend our furniture arrived. The only things left to do now are hang a few pictures and organize my closet in the master bedroom (I still have clothes in wardrobe boxes). I can do both at my leisure. The priority this week and next is to let my feet heal.

All the hard work of the last month is paying off right now. Instead of manuevering through the chaos of boxes, I walked in and felt instantly at home . . . especially when I saw that John had hung this on our bedroom wall...



John took over the new dealership (www.howertonhonda.com) on February 10. I spent the first week here with him, then went home to Murfreesboro and started packing on February 18. Our things were loaded onto the moving truck on February 29 and delivered to WV on March 2. I made the drive by myself for the first time on March 1, spent the weekend unpacking and putting things away. Returned to Murfreesboro on March 5 and had surgery on both feet (to remove Morton's Neuromas) March 6. The last two weeks have been spent recovering at the home of a dear friend. And on Friday, after getting my stitches out, I went to my son and daughter-in-law's for a little more than 24 hours. And then John arrived shortly after noon yesterday. We got to spend some quality time with the munchkins. And then last night Danny was ordained as a priest in the Anglican church.


It's going to take a while for me to get used to calling him a priest. I think of priests as Catholic. And I knew almost nothing about Anglicanism prior to Danny attending Church of the Redeemer in Nashville. I will probably always refer to him as a pastor. And the liturgical form of worship is still a little formal for me (I always manage to get lost while trying to follow the readings and responses.) But I believe with all my heart that Danny and his family are where God has planted them. And I've loved watching him grow in his calling. Redeemer is a warm church where I always feel God's love and presence. And last night was no different, even though the actual ordination service was held in a Methodist church in Hendersonville. (There was a wedding already planned for March 17 at Redeemer.) I am truly thankful for all the people who make a point of telling me how much they love and appreciate my son.

We stayed for the reception following the service (longer than we'd planned) and then hit the road for West Virginia. It was late and we didn't know how far we would actually drive before stopping. We thought we could at least drive an hour or two. We wound up driving all the way to Kodak, which is the exit for Gatlinburg. We wanted to make sure we were not driving through Bristol at the same time people were arriving for or leaving the Nascar race today. We slept in and were still back on the road by 10:30 am. Three hours later, we were home.

We relaxed for a while and then decided to go out for Chinese food at a place called Young Chow's. It's one of the few places we had not tried yet. And a lot of people rave about it. We had a very good meal. John had Chicken Fried Rice. I had Scallops in Garlic Sauce (with broccoli, mushrooms and water chesnuts). The garlic sauce was sweet and spicy, and delicious. John liked it too.

We then did a Kroger run and got a few things for this week. I will not be driving. I will be hanging out in the townhome all day while John is at work. So I wanted to make sure I had food! And then we got back and accepted our neighbor's invitation to see his townhome. So I have been on my feet a little more than I planned to tonight. But I'm not in pain. My feet just feel sore. I'm going to stay off them a lot tomorrow. (And yes, I know I said that LAST night. But this time I really mean it.)



I wore a normal shoe for the first time tonight. I bought a pair of Merrells in early January at TJ Maxx. They have thin fabric uppers with a zipper, and rubber soles. Plenty of room for my pre-surgery Walk Fit orthodic inserts. And very comfortable. I decided to try them on and see how close I was to being able to wear them. When I put them on with the orthodics, the inserts felt good against my arch. And the rubber felt good under my heel. So I wore them. And I walked on them all evening without problem. But my knees are getting really tired of this walking on my heels and the sides of my feet, trying to keep the weight off the balls of my feet. My sciatic nerve has been flaring up sporadically, too.

Tomorrow is going to be an absolute day of foot rest. I may even have a cup or two of coffee in bed. Oh, that sounds so good. Waking up in my own bed. And my Keurig Pumpkin Spice coffee.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I'm going home tomorrow!

John decided to come back for Danny's ordination service tonight and take me home tomorrow. I'm so happy. Even though we'll turn right around and drive back in a week for his appt. with Dr. Flinn, I'm looking forward to being home with him all week.

I'm doing great post-op. I intend to share more details of my neuroma surgery and recovery (for the benefit of patients searching for information on the net). But right now my focus is on spending time with the kids. I'll have lots of quiet time next week!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Could I be homesick for a home I have not lived in yet?

No.

I miss JOHN!

Home is not a place. Home is a person.

I have had a great time with Connie. I can't imagine anyone taking better care of me or making me so comfortable. I've had total rest and relaxation this week. Friday I will get my stitches out and spend the weekend with Danny and Rebecca. Monday Danny will take me to White House where I will spend the week with my brother and sister-in-law. John will return on the 25th, see Dr. Flinn on the 27th, and then on the 28th we will drive home to West Virginia together. He has been there for weeks, running the new dealership. But I have been back and forth. And I've been here without him since the 5th. So, when I see him again, it will be after 20 days apart.

Prior to this, we have never spent more than a week apart.
And even at the beach, a week is about as long as I can stand to be away.

I'm sure looking forward to going home.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My First Day Out (after foot surgery)

I went out to lunch today with my girlfriends (Amy, Brittany & Jessica). I had to sit with my feet elevated to prevent swelling. I could have put them down for the picture, but I wanted to preserve the memory of my first day out.
Yesterday was the turning point for me in my recovery after having neuromas (damaged nerves) removed from both feet Tuesday morning. My doctor said that I would probably only need pain pills for a couple of days. He said to stay off my feet, and keep them elevated, as much as possible the first two days and then to gradually start moving more on Day Three. The first two days I took meds on a schedule to stay ahead of any pain I might have. But I thought I was doing so well the third day that I decided not to take any more pain pills (based on what my doctor said and not wanting to take pain medication unnecessarily) and got up to walk more frequently.

Well, that turned out to be a bad decision. I did still need pain medicine. And my friend urged me to take it longer, but I resisted. When she sweetly told me I was hard headed, I took it to heart. John calls me Hard Head sometimes. And I don't see myself that way. But maybe I am.

I think, in hindsight, I was not thinking clearly from the anesthetic or just the ordeal in general. Or maybe I was just wanting to be a star patient. I'm not really sure. Because I can't figure out why I was so bent on being off pain meds so quickly, except that my doctor had given me a goal to achieve and I was convinced I would not need them more than two days (including the day of surgery). But when I got them back in my system (6-7 hours apart), I started to feel better again. I took my last hydrocodone Saturday night and still had a little bit of hurting (especially in my right foot). But I woke up Sunday feeling like I was over the hump. I even considered going to a movie. But because I'd gone to bed with a little pain the night before, I was apprehensive about possibly having to walk down a long hallway to a theater and also navigating steps. I decided my first outing should not involve that much walking. And I think it was the right decision.

To be cautious, I stayed in one more day. Last night we watched a pay per view movie (The Ides of March, which was very good) and ate popcorn. I'm enjoying my time with Connie so much. And she has taken such good care of me. Then today my friend Brittany picked me up and took me to lunch. I chose Fulin because it seemed like the shortest walk from car to table. But even though I'm slow, I am walking so well today that I realized I could have gone anywhere and been fine. After lunch I felt good enough to go in Victoria's Secret and pick up some body lotion. I knew customers would notice how funny I was walking and wonder what was wrong with me. I am such an explainer that I had to resist the impulse to share that I'd had recent foot surgery with every stranger whose eyes met mine. But as I entered the store, I made the conscious decision to offer no explanations and let them wonder.

It felt so good to get out and do something normal. I don't know how long my feet will be sore or how long it will be before I walk normally. But I feel like I'm on the downhill slide now. So, for the benefit of anyone reading who may be considering having neuroma surgery, I needed pain pills for five days instead of two. Not because the pain was excruciating, but because I could move better, be more comfortable, rest and heal better. I've been told (and it makes sense to me) that your body heals better and faster if you are not in pain. Pain causes more inflammation. Yesterday and today I have taken only an anti-inflammatory in the morning (same one I took for my frozen shoulder). I have been on my feet quite a bit today and I am still not in any pain.

I'm really looking forward to having the bandages and stitches removed Friday morning! I'm just hoping the right nerves were removed and once the soreness is gone, I won't have the nerve pain. I've heard reports of complete relief after this surgery and one person told me their surgery was unsuccessful. I would hate to think I went through this for nothing. My surgeon said he has never removed a nerve that wasn't damaged (they send it for biopsy). But I know there is always a first time and I don't want to be his only exception! I went to a medical doctor who specializes in the foot instead of going to a podiatrist because I wanted the best chance of a successful outcome. And Dr. Yu came highly recommended.

I had so much fun with my friends today. Tomorrow I have another lunch date and an appt. to get my hair cut and colored. I always feel better with fresh hair! My time with Connie is winding down. After my stitches are removed Friday morning, I will move locations and spend the next week at Chris and Cheryl's. I'm looking forward to hanging out at their house and having some quality time with the family before John comes for his next appt. with Dr. Flinn and we go home to West Virginia together! I miss him terribly and hate having to be away from him while recovering, but I wanted to have my foot surgery here in Nashville and get it behind me.

The timing turned out to be perfect for several reasons. And a big one is: Danny is being ordained as a priest in the Anglican church on March 17. I could not miss that. I was mentally prepared to go in a wheelchair, if necessary. Thankfully, I will be walking on my own just fine.

I'm feeling good. I'm feeling thankful. I'm happy the last three weeks are behind me. I'm feeling excited about my new life in West Virginia and excited about having a little more time with family and friends before I head "home" in two weeks with John. I was saying at lunch today that I do not feel I have to "lose" any of my dear friends because I'm moving six hours away. I will always make the effort to stay emotionally close to those who make the effort to remain close to me!

I'm so happy I get to come back every eight weeks. That and technology make this adjustment so much easier. And hopefully I will make a few new close friends in my new location.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Best Five Years of My Life (so far)

I'm finally back from the chaos of moving! And now I am relaxing and recovering from this morning's foot surgery (to remove neuromas from both feet).








So many times over the last week or two I have wanted to write on my blog, but time did not permit. I had a very full plate trying to pack for West Virginia. I had to pack certain things to take and use, other things to take and store; figure out what to leave in place, what to give away and donate! I thought I had gotten rid of so much, but it was still a little stressful when the truck arrived at our townhome Friday. I found myself wondering if I should have put more of my kitchen things in storage. But ultimately, using every inch of space available, I got everything put away and in order. Our kitchen is functional and looks great! I can't overstate what an accomplishment that was in the brief time I had there!

When I left WV yesterday, I had managed to get everything unpacked, other than my clothes and the boxes John has to sort through. I set out some of my most cherished framed pictures and even got a few wall hangings up! It felt so much like home by Sunday night, I was sad that I had to leave. I wanted to just sit down in my cozy little family room and enjoy it with John. Add to those emotions the fact that we woke up to snow (and more snow falling) and my desire to just stay put was magnified. I did not look forward to navigating the road that would take me to the Interstate. I am not an experienced driver in those conditions. And it was also very beautiful and inviting; the kind of day that is perfect for reading a book by a fireplace. But I was scheduled for foot surgery bright and early this morning. So I tore myself away! I made it down the dreaded two lane road just fine. And by about 2:00 pm, I was pulling into Murfreesboro with plenty of time to run a few errands before settling in at my friend's house.

This morning I had to be in Nashville, at the surgical center, at 6:00 am. I was a little nervous. I expected to be hurting quite a bit today and possibly tomorrow as well. But I have had a great day. Everything went well and the only real pain I've had was when we first arrived back at the house, before I'd had a chance to take my first pain pill. We had to stop at Bed Bath & Beyond on the way home so Connie could run in and get pillows for me (like the ones I forgot to bring). I don't want to mess my neck up again. And then we had to drive through Kroger and wait for my prescription. So by the time I walked from the garage into the kitchen, I was in considerable pain and needed to sit immediately. I was expecting pain all day. But it only took about 30 minutes for the pain meds to kick in. I have spent the rest of the day with my feet propped up and I notice that each time I get up to walk a few steps into the bathroom, it's a little bit easier.

I'm amazed. I'm taking my pain meds every four hours to stay ahead of the pain and it is completely under control. If I were to stay on my feet for very long, I can tell they would start hurting. But I'm far more comfortable than I expected to be this soon. And I plan to continue taking pain meds through tomorrow. I will probably stretch them out to six hours based on today's progress. I expect to be taking nothing by Thursday.

Per doctor's instructions, I will stay off my feet for two days, then I will start moving around a little more (gradually) on day three. I am frequently wiggling my feet at the ankle to make sure I keep the blood circulating. The pain pills make that easier. I'm already so glad I did this. It truly is a cake walk compared to frozen shoulder. I hope I can sleep tonight. I didn't take a nap today like I thought I would. I kept resisting it because I wanted to be tired enough to sleep all night.

But enough about the feet and a few words about my heart...

I've had so many emotions the last couple of weeks. I could have written several blog posts if I hadn't been SO busy. I was flooded with emotion the day the furniture left my home of the last five years. And I had all of those emotions wash over me again when I went by yesterday to pick up a few odds and ends. But not because of the structure. It doesn't bother me a bit to move out of that big home. Yes, it's beautiful and we enjoyed living there. But I will be just as happy in a townhome less than half the size. (In fact, I'm very excited about the cozy feel of our townhome.)

The memories are what trigger so much emotion for me. We have had some amazing times in the house we are leaving. Every room holds sweet, precious memories. So many of our wonderful ordinary days and evenings have been making appearances in my mind's eye, like slideshow flashbacks, everywhere I've looked this past week. Another chapter of our lives is closing. I'm thrilled about the new chapter that is beginning and I know there will be more great memories to cherish. But it feels like I am leaving behind a piece of me, a piece of "us." I have never felt this much emotion connected to moving out of any house.

The house we lived in prior to this was John's house before we met. So even though we got married there and John says it wasn't a home until I moved in, I was excited about starting fresh in a house we bought and moved into together. I'll never forget, we closed on Valentine's Day and he told me it was my Valentine's gift (even though he was the one who wanted it the most). LOL.


We moved in the week before Andrew was born. We've hosted many family holidays and get togethers there. Many sleepovers. I look at each room and remember things like reading bedtime stories to the boys when they spent the night, having the kids come stay with us during the May flood (just after Pax was born), cooking and baking for family and friends in the kitchen, planting 30 flower pots on the back patio each spring and having family come for Memorial Day weekends. Birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgivings, Christmases.
Leaving for trips and coming home. Quiet Sundays just the two of us. Standing in the kitchen listening to John tell me about his day. Hanging out in the bonus room listening to John play guitar (or hearing his guitar echoing through the house no matter what room I was in).

With every memory, as I walk through my now nearly empty house, my eyes fill up with tears. But they are tears of gratitude for the blessings and the sweet memories, tinged with just a shred of sadness that this chapter is closing. I have no doubt the next chapter will be equally full of blissfully happy ordinary days and cherished memories. But I spent five of the best years of my life in that house and even though I don't mind leaving the square footage and the fancy ceilings, I will always feel connected to it emotionally. An observer might presume on the surface that it was, materially, the best house of my life. But what it represents to me is emotional. All my memories are of contentment, peace, and love. Emotionally, I have been living the best years of my life (so far).

There were also some challenging times, like John's diagnosis and chemo, Marian's pneumonia, the emotional stress of detaching from my past and writing my book. I sat in my family room sometimes 15 hours a day writing and editing that book in 2009. I think about those hours frequently when I look at my family room recliner (where I worked most of the time). Although I shed so many tears purging those emotions, I came out on the other side more whole and spiritually/emotionally healthy than I ever expected to be. That house represents a time of healing in some very big ways. God has done so much for me during my eight and a half years in Murfreesboro. And the last five years have been a real season of personal growth for me.

I'm thankful that when I was setting up our townhome in Glade Springs this past weekend, I was filled with anticipation and joy for what lies ahead. It makes it easier for me to leave the happiness I know when I look forward to the happiness that is yet to be...